Re: [Videolib] Top Twenty Films ever made about Poverty

Steve Fesenmaier (
Mon, 8 Aug 2005 16:28:19 -0400

thanks...your suggestion has been added.-steve

Top Twenty Films Ever about Poverty

By Steve Fesenmaier with additions from the field Aug. 3, 2005

John Gehner, Coordinator of the ALA- SRRT Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty
Task Force has asked me to create a list of "top 20 greatest films on
poverty." I came up with the following list from my 30+ years as a
professional film exhibitor, critic, etc. Please send me any films you think
should be on the list....documentary or fictional...or short...or

website -

1. Time of Drunken Horses - Iranian. Incredible poverty of Kurds who have to
get their donkeys drunk to climb mountains

2. Los Olvidados - Bunuel film on street kids of Mexico City

3. Dancing Outlaw - hilarious/sad film on WV dancer Jesco White who is poor.

4. Pixote - Brazilian film in style of Los Olvidados

5. The Pride of Jesse Hallam -Johnny Cash stars in his best film. Poor
family has to leave Ky. for Cincinnati. Also about literacy.

6. The Grapes of Wrath - film version of Steinbeck's Nobel Prize winning

7. Born into Brothels -2004 Oscar winner for best feature documentary

8. Before Night Falls - Oscar nominated film about gay Cuban writer.

9. Vera Drake - great new English film about poverty- and abortion

10. Places in the Heart - Texas poverty, Oscar winning

11. Tree of Wooden Clogs - 1978 Italian film that made Olmi famous

12. Padre, Padrone - 1977film that made Taviani Brothers famous

13. The Promise - Dardenne Brothers from Belgium breakout film. Poor
people from Belgium and around the world struggle in modern Belgium.
"Rosette," another one of their films also won top award at Cannes. Life of
trailer house girl in contemporary Belgium.

14. Misery in the Borinage - 1933. First doc on coal miners by Joris
Ivens in part of Belgium where Van Gogh was a minister before becoming a
painter. True poverty.

15. Midnight Cowboy - Oscar winner about Dustin Hoffman as street hustler

16. Vagabond - 1985. Agnes Varda's film about a young homeless girl.

17. City of Joy- 1992. Patrick Swayze in slumbs of Calcutta.

18. Life and Debt - 2001 doc on how globalization has made poverty much
worse in Jamaica.

19. Land without Bread - 1932. Bunuel's only documentary.

20. The Gleaners and I - Anges Varda's documentary about the poor in


Additions from the field

1.. El Norte by Sanford Berman, founder of the Task Force
2.. Darwin's Nightmare - by Paul Nuchims, retired art professor
3.. Bicycle Thief by Susan Grant" <>Technical
Services Manager
Southern Maryland Regional Library
4.. Dry Wood by Les Blank. Black Creole life in Louisiana.
5.. A Well Spent Life by Les Blank, suggested by filmmaker. Life of
bluesman guitarist Mance Lipscomb. Kurt Vonnegut's fav film.
6.. The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan, nominated by Susan Upole.
7.. "The Good Woman of Bangkok" (Film / TV, 1991) by Dennis O'Rourke.
Disturbing but important film on poverty: Philip Fryer, Media/Systems
Librarian -
Loyola Notre Dame Library
8.. The Harder They Come (about poor country and ghetto youth in Kingston,
Jamaica) - Mike Tribby" <>Senior Cataloger,
Quality Books Inc
9.. Goat Man (about a poor farmer with an affinity for driving
large numbers of goats cross-country). Mike Tribby, Senior Cataloger,
Quality Books Inc
10.. "Mother India" 1957. (India) - Tells the story of a widow struggling
to feed her family
and survive famine and insurmountable debt.- Ameet Doshi
11.. "Apu Trilogy" (especially "Pather Panchali"). 1955-1959. (India)
Follows the life of a young boy and his family as they fight against the
forces of
poverty in India. - Ameet Doshi
12.. Dark Days (2000) Marc Singer. Kimberly Stanton"
13.. Bread and Roses_ (2000) Steve Brantley" <>
14.. Sweet Sixteen_ (2001/2002) or practically anything by Ken Loach Steve
Brantley" <>
15.. City of God_ (2002) Cidade de Deus (2002) Directed by Fernando
MeirellesSteve Brantley" <>
16.. Vittoria De Sica's MIRACLE IN MILAN. You will never forget the
winner of the chicken contest. "Gena Zelenka"


>From director/curator of South Charleston Museum where I program WV film
series -

Here are my picks. The films with asteriks are my particular favourites.

-Teresa W.

1) Grapes of Wrath, 1940*

2) Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief), 1948 *

3) Angela's Ashes, 1999*

4) Boys Town, 1938

5) Jude (the Obscure), 1996

6) Stella Dallas, 1935

7) Little Women, 1933

8) It's a Wonderful Life, 1946

9) Wings of the Dove, 1997

10) I Remember Mama, 1948

11) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945*

12) The Little Match Girl (short), 1937

13) Waterloo Bridge, 1940

14) Modern Times, 1936*

15) How Green Was My Valley, 1941

16) To Kill a Mockking Bird, 1962*

17) Places in the Heart, 1984

And on the lighter side,

18) Oliver!, 1998

19) The Fisher King, 1991*

20) Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 1986


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